Introduction: Many years ago a member of my Sabbath-school class was diagnosed with a deadly disease. She was not worried because she knew that God would heal her. She was certain. I remember the time when a switch flipped in her mind and she realized that she was going to die. It was terrible. Her “kingdom” was shaken. What would you say to her at a time like this? What does the Bible say to those who face difficult times? Let’s plunge into our study of Hebrews and learn more!
A. Read Hebrews 12:3. What does Hebrews tell us to contemplate when we face difficult times? (We need to think about what Jesus suffered on our behalf. If this was to be expected for Him, what should we expect?)
B. Read Hebrews 12:4. All my professional life I have fought in the judicial system for religious liberty. Not one of my clients faced death if I lost. They would lose their job if I lost. Is this a source of confidence – you have not been killed yet? (It makes you look at things soberly. When I faced a difficult argument I used to take comfort that if I lost, I would be embarrassed or frustrated, not jailed or killed. While I had a few clients who lost their jobs, they all ended up with the option to return. )
C. As you look back over the two verses we have just discussed (Hebrews 12:3-4), what is the source of the problem? (Sinners and sin.)
D. Read Hebrews 12:5. Is the source of the trouble different? (This comes from God, not sin or sinners.)
1. Why are we reminded that God regards us as sons and daughters? (If you had great parents, as I did, you know that God loves you and has only the best in mind for you.)
2. The specific language is the “discipline of the Lord.” What parents deliberately create problems for their children?)
a. If you answer “none,” how would you explain this? (If you believe, as I do, that God is ultimately in charge, this text merely acknowledges that God permitted the problem. He did not inspire the problem – it was not His idea.)
3. Wait a minute. If God permits the problem, is it partially His idea? Is it permitted by God for some important reason? If so, what attitude should we have when we face challenges? (We need to take the matter seriously. We need to see the problem as a chance for improvement.)
a. How many Christians only view problems as Satan attacking them?
E. Read Hebrews 12:6. What is the most important message that we can learn about discipline? (The troubles we face arise because God loves us and wants our life to be better.)
F. Read Hebrews 12:7-10. I expect that some readers at this point will think about some terrible thing that happened to their family or friends and will utterly reject what we have just discussed. Or, they will remember the introduction. What lesson was learned by the lady who died?
1. What do these texts teach us about discipline and terrible things in life? (This is a crucial point: if a loving parent would not do something, then you know God is not permitting something to help make you better. If you are thinking about a child dying or contracting some terrible disease, all the discussion about the parallel to parenting tells us that these terrible tragedies are not part of a disciplinary process to make us better.)
G. Read Hebrews 12:11. When you face terrible situations, how important is a peaceful mind?
1. What can we look forward to with discipline? (“The peaceful fruit of righteousness.”)
H. Read Hebrews 12:12-13. Have you endured trying times and your health suffered because of it?
1. What is God’s goal for us? (He will overcome the physical problems that accompany stress and put us on the path to healing.)
2. Assume for a minute that Hebrews is not discussing health in these two verses, but rather your mental attitude. In that context, what does “what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather healed,” mean? (A number of readers are probably acquainted with this idea. A lame leg, untreated, ends up harming your hip or some other joint. (God tells us that if we do not learn from the discipline, worse things will likely follow.)
I. Read Hebrews 12:14-15. What should we watch out for when we deal with those who suffer? (A “root of bitterness.” When stressful times arise, we need to seek peace and avoid anyone becoming bitter.)
J. Read Hebrews 12:16-17. When you think of Esau, do you view him as a terrible man?
1. If not, how do you view him? (He seems immature. Unserious. Not wicked.)
2. Why is Esau brought to mind at part of this discussion? (Challenges and difficulties help to focus our mind. They help us to mature and become more serious.)
II. The New Kingdom
A. Read Hebrews 12:18. What does it mean that you have come to a place where you are not touching things?
B. Read Hebrews 12:22-23. Where have you come, instead? (To heaven!)
1. One of the worst pictures of heaven is that we are floating around on clouds playing harps. I would be bored out of my mind. Are clouds and harps what it means by coming somewhere with no touching? (That is not at all what is meant here. Hebrews compares God arriving at Mount Sinai with us arriving in Heaven. The experience is much different. At Sinai if they touched they died. We do not fear approaching God in heaven.)
C. Read Hebrews 12:24. This text has an odd reference to Abel. What does Abel have to do with the point being made here? (Think back to Hebrews 12:2 and Hebrews 12:4. In the discussion about discipline and suffering, we told that Jesus has also suffered – and He died. The Hebrews had not gotten to the point of dying for their religious beliefs. We are now reminded of Abel, someone who suffered and died. The difference is that when Jesus suffered and died, He created the way to eternal life for us.)
D. Read Hebrews 12:25. What does history teach us? (The people rejected the God of Sinai and died. Why should we expect a different outcome if we reject the God who came to rescue us?)
E. Read Hebrews 12:26-27. I think this tells us something about astronomy. What does this say will happen to the heavens? (They will be shaken. If they are shaken they will be removed.)
1. Will what we see in the sky disappear at the Second Coming of the Lord?
F. Read Luke 21:25-26. Here is another text about the heavens being shaken. It is my opinion, based on these verses in Luke, that astronomers will see galaxies begin to collapse. It will not be here, but they will say the collapse will continue and is coming our way. Does that seem plausible to you? (That would explain why people are fainting with fear “with foreboding of what is coming on the world.”)
G. Read Hebrews 12:28-29. What does the writer of Hebrews call on us to do?
H. Friend, will you answer that call? When you suffer difficulties, know that God has the best in mind for you and that He will ultimately usher you to a place that cannot be shaken. Nothing will trouble you again. Why not, right now, accept God’s offer?
III. Next week: “Let Brotherly Love Continue.”